A Shift Of Reality Essay, Research Paper
A Shift of Reality
The new television genre of reality shows is becoming so popular because they offer an alternate sense of reality. What is reality and is there only one interpretation or many different ones? There is no one reality because reality shifts. The dictionary definition of reality is the following: Reality is the state of things as they are rather than as they are imagined to be. Realities are facts. Just like reality, facts also shift. There could be a newspaper article about an earthquake in Los Angeles and it would describe the damage and deaths, which are facts. Another edition of the newspaper may come out a few days later with new information and more deaths to account for which would then cause the facts to shift. Virtual reality is the set of images and sounds produced by a computer which seem to represent a place or situation in which a person experiencing it can take part but is this really reality? There cannot be just one reality that is universal to everyone because along with the always-changing context, people s perception also changes on a regular basis. To help illustrate this, reality television programs have been created. Of course the producers of these television shows do not want the viewers to grasp such distinctions between reality and the shows they are producing because it might jeopardize the product they are trying to sell. Unfortunately, the people who buy into these reality shows far out-weigh the ones who don t.
Ten years ago, producers recognized there was a whole new genre of programming out there. Today, the reality craze is now under way in full force. New shows are being introduced one right after another. Producers have created shows like Big Brother, Survivor, Real World, Blind Date and Temptation Island because of the popularity of this new genre of reality shows. But why are these shows so popular and how real are they or in what sense are they real? Why have these reality shows taken over and have somewhat replaced TV sitcoms and movies? Aren t there similarities between the two? These shows are so popular because they deal with real life issues and problems that happen in every day lives of people in our society. Of course in real life, you might not go to Belize to cheat on a significant other but the thrill of it excited the viewers. They deal with concepts that could happen to you and we, as people are curious about how to react to these same situations without actually having to be in them at the present moment. We continue to watch these shows because we associate to a character that is similar to ourselves and we concentrate on that character s interactions and relationships with others. But how real are these character s reactions. Of course they don t have a script but they know that they were picked because they could full-fill some caricature and they play up to this role they were given. We get pulled in and become curious to what is going to happen next. We want to see our character and what they do next or what is in store for them. You could almost say that we become addicted to the television shows. Not only do we watch these shows for real life comparisons but we also watch them because they are just entertaining and fun to watch. Sometimes the stuff that happens is so far fetched that you just have to laugh at the thought of it actually happening. People like these shows because they can laugh at the situations being portrayed and know that they don t have to deal with them themselves and because it isn t happening to them. These shows offer an alternate sense of reality where there seems to be no consequences or the consequences seem fake or staged because it is a television show.
How real are these television shows and can you really compare them to real life reality? Take Real World and Temptation Island. Real World is about six strangers who go through an entire screening process and are picked to live in a house somewhere and have their lives taped and then broadcasted to the entire world. The public viewers raise many questions. How much of their lives and interactions are actually shown? There is no way that the producers can fit all of the things that happen into a half-hour or hour block. So what do they do? They edit and edit and edit. They create the conflicts and play off people s insecurities and emotions. They develop the main story line and plot with all the hours of unused taping. Real World is now in its seventh or eighth episode. Do you really think that the seventh episode is going to be as real at the first one was? The reactions are supposed to be believed to be real but in fact, many argue that they are staged. They have no script but the producers can create the character with the technology of editing. They can pretty much do almost anything with this technology. There is no written script that is actually tangible but it seems as though there is an unspoken script that these so-called real people follow. Temptation Island on the other hand is about four couples who go to an island in Baja off the coast of Belize and are then separated from their significant other. They then are surrounded by single strangers of the opposite sex and tempted to cheat. The producers tape the couples as they go on various dates with different men and women. These tapes then get shown to the significant others with the worst parts of course being shown to alter and distort reality and make it look like something bad happened. The people on Temptation Island have most likely seen other reality based TV shows. They know that there are millions of viewers watching them on television so they are going to do things to try and stand out. Their reactions most likely will not be 100% real because they know they have a role to full-fill or an image to keep. How can you be 100% real when you have hundreds of cameras on you all the time? This leads to the point about bad stuff . It is the bad stuff that sells. Anyone with even a little bit of sense should be able to see that these shows are altered and offer a different sense of reality. But why then does this stuff sell and does it continue to become more and more popular?
What do people think of when they hear the word normal? What is normal? Are the people on Temptation Island and Real World normal people or do they full-fill some role that the producers want portrayed? Normal as depicted in the dictionary says that it is conforming with an accepted standard or norm; natural; usual. How then, do you determine what is the accepted standard? Is it being skinny and a size two or is it a size eight? Is normal having lots of money and being famous and being driven around in a limousine or having a house in the suburbs and owning your own business and driving a mini van? You can interpret something to be normal numerous ways. I think that the reality shows take what they think is normal and broadcast their view all across the nation. Temptation Island for example does not have any obese men or women. They all have nice, muscular bodies and respectable careers. What does this make the younger viewers that these shows have been targeted at feel about how they should look? Is this what reality is all about? These people in these new shows are people like the rest of us but they change the minute they get behind a camera. We might be looked at as boring but they could be just like us, just not perceived as boring because they are on this reality television show. Are these shows so popular because it is stressed upon us that the individuals in these shows are normal so we are supposed to be able to relate to them better because they are more like us rather than a so-called celebrity?
Berger makes a claim on page 105 in the Way of Reading text. He says that the way we see things if affected by what we know or what we believe . This helps to explain why there is not one reality and the distinctions between the varying levels of reality. If an individual is brought up in an environment where his/her parents don t get along and there is dishonesty in the family, then they might grow up to view cheating as not so bad. They would view Temptation Island as a show similar to their childhood and might encourage the couples to cheat or wouldn t look down upon it whereas a child who was brought up in a different type of environment where dishonesty is looked down upon tremendously. This child might view the show as disgusting and repulsive and might not understand why any couple would agree to participate. There are many other cultural issues in our society that one could argue are ambivalent. The issue of abortion, adultery i.e. Monica Lewinsky, the price of gas, child labor laws or speeding regulations. The experiences in our lives and our beliefs shape the way that we see reality. It all relates to Berger s claim about the way that we see things are affected by what we know and believe.
I think that a big part of this popularity with the reality television shows is credited to people s fascination with fantasy worlds and wanting to live the perfect life where everything happens just as it should. How can one define the perfect life? Is it having a lot of money and being able to do everything you want or is it having an enormous family with lots of love? It is hard to say what the perfect life is. These new television shows challenge that perception on what people think reality is and offers a different level of reality. This is why I believe that there can be no one reality. Everyone has a different view of what they think reality is to them, what is normal to them, what is a perfect life and what is important to them that they get out of life. They compare their lives to those people on these television shows because it is the closet to real that they can relate to without actually being directly involved. They don t compare their lives to movies and TV sitcoms as much because they know that they both have scripts that the actors have to follow and they are seen as farther from the true reality than a show like Real World or Survivor. By watching these shows people can live their lives almost through the characters and that way there are no consequences. The characters do things that us as individuals would never think of doing or chances we could or never would take. These new reality television shows offer an alternate sense of reality and many different levels of it. There is not one reality because it is forever changing and evolving and our society has taken this new genre of television shows to portray this.